Home Social Justice Opinion: “Go Set a Watchman” is Harper Lee’s “Will to Power”

Opinion: “Go Set a Watchman” is Harper Lee’s “Will to Power”

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The new Harper Lee novel, Go Set a Watchman, is set to be published by the publishing house HarperCollins on July 14, 2015. The recent release has sparked quite some controversy.

Firstly, Harper Lee hasn’t published anything for 55 years since her 1960 classic To Kill A Mockingbird. After the book was released, Lee came under a media blitz which led her to be reclusive, similar to J.D. Salinger, and left her sister and famed Alabama lawyer, Alice Lee, to deal with her affairs, according to a Jezebel article. Two and a half months ago, Alice Lee passed away.

In the Jezebel article, Madeleine Davies included a description of how Harper felt towards her late sister:

“In the past, Lee affectionately referred to her sister Alice as ‘Atticus in a skirt.’ Not just because she was an amazing lawyer, but because she was the protector who shielded Harper Lee from the publishing world and press attention that she was so adamantly repelled by. But now Alice — her Atticus — is gone and an unhealthy and unstable Lee must alone face the publishers, interviewers and literary agents that she’s spent her entire life avoiding.”

The last line is incredibly relevant. Even before Alice Lee’s death, after she retired from law at the age of 100 and left her sister’s affairs to Tonja Carter, Harper Lee’s statements became quite odd. A month after Marja Mills’ The Mockingbird Next Door was announced along with a statement saying Penguin Press had the full cooperation of the Lee sisters, a press statement, bearing Harper Lee’s name read:

“Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false.”

Thankfully, Alice Lee was still alive at the time and released her own statement:

“In light of recent events, I am writing to reaffirm my and my sister Harper Lee’s support of, and cooperation with, Marja Mills’ forthcoming memoir, The Mockingbird Next Door.

The letter signed by Harper Lee and sent on April 27 via the Barnett, Bugg, Lee & Carter email address was sent without my knowledge and does not represent my feelings or those of my sister.”

It may seem odd that Harper Lee would have such a topsy turvy way of dealing with biographers but the reality of the situation is that since Harper’s 2007 stroke, she has continually degraded in both body and mind. Her sister has characterized her condition, saying, “Poor Nelle Harper can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by any one in whom she has confidence.”

Lee Siegel of The New Yorker appears to be giving the publication “the benefit of the doubt.” In his piece, Siegel talks a lot about the publication itself, but seems to pass by with fleeting comments about the intent of Harper Lee.

While academics may scream of the death of the author, what I am referring to is the work itself, not the meaning of the text of the work, but the work as it belongs to the author. There is another historical figure who has a similar story, the German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche was a philosopher in the late 19th century who is considered anywhere from existentialist to laying the foundation for post-modernism. Many people actually know two Nietzschean phrases already — “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” and “God is dead.”

At the age of 40, Nietzsche began to go insane and soon lost total control of his mind, often signing documents as the Greek god Dionysus. His sister, who cared for him after his illness, compiled his notes and released his work “The Will To Power,” which was full of German nationalism, anti-semitism, and forerunnings to Nazism even though Nietzsche was staunchly against German nationalism and anti-semitism, illuminated by his fallout with famous anti-semite and German nationalist, Richard Wagner.

This all becomes more clear with the fact that Nietzsche’s sister was a Nazi, who before caring for her disabled brother tried to establish an Aryan colony in the Americas with her husband. Also, after she passed, Hitler attended her funeral. This has led to the mainstream misconception of Nietzsche as a Nazi even though he was the furthest thing from that. Michel Foucault, a French thinker and admirer of Nietzsche, even set up his estate to ensure that nothing like that would ever happen with his work.

In conclusion, it seems that the doubt of this publication has outweighed its possible benefit. Not that Harper Lee’s book is going to contain mad anti-semitic ramblings, but her voice may not be her own, but rather under the manipulation of her representatives. Davies said it better than anyone:

“Our Boo Radley is being dragged into the light.”

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